Iowa Men's Basketball

Iowa basketball digs too deep a hole vs. Gophers

Too little defense for Hawkeyes in 92-87 loss to Minnesota

Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery sums up his feelings about his team's defense Sunday in the Hawkeyes' 92-87 loss at Minnesota Sunday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. (Harrison Barden/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery sums up his feelings about his team's defense Sunday in the Hawkeyes' 92-87 loss at Minnesota Sunday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. (Harrison Barden/USA TODAY Sports)

MINNEAPOLIS — Fran McCaffery made a statement Sunday.

His Iowa men’s basketball team? Not so much.

McCaffery’s Hawkeyes (16-5, 5-5 Big Ten) returned to their defense-deprived days of Winter 2018 at Williams Arena in losing to Minnesota, 92-87, in Winter 2019.

The Gophers (15-5, 5-4) got a large assortment of easy hoops in the first half and took a 55-46 lead to intermission. They added 11 more points in the first 4:05 of the second half, causing McCaffery to yank his starting five. He kept all five players out for the next four minutes, and sat three even longer.

Freshman guard Joe Wieskamp was on the sideline for over 11 minutes. He didn’t score until the game’s final two minutes. Starter Jordan Bohannon was shut out until the last minute.

The reason for the mass benching in The Barn was no mystery. The starters offered no defense, during or after the game.

“We weren’t very good on defense,” McCaffery said, “no matter what we did.”

It wasn’t as if the second five of Nicholas Baer, Maishe Dailey, Ryan Kriener, Connor McCaffery and Riley Till made headway on the scoreboard. But the Gophers’ glorified layup drill ended while Iowa’s starters watched.

“We weren’t executing,” said Iowa guard Isaiah Moss, “so we can’t be mad at him for taking us out.”

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“We don’t have the type of guys to sit on the bench and be pissed at Coach,” said Hawkeye forward Tyler Cook.

“We knew just as much if not more than Coach knows that we were playing bad.”

“I’m trying something,” McCaffery said. “What we were doing before was not working. So you can change the offense, or you can change the defense, or you can change the personnel.

“To the credit of the guys we put in, they were better. And more important ... credit to the guys that I took out were better when I put them back in.”

Minnesota led 81-65 with 5:50 remaining. Iowa then tore off 11 straight points and was within four points twice in the last three minutes with chances to cut it more.

The first time, Cook airballed a free throw on the front end of a one-and-one with 2:15 to go. The second time, Cook had the ball stripped from him on an out-of-control drive.

“I mishandled it a little bit,” Cook said. And the horse, so to speak, was soon out of The Barn as the Gophers went back up by eight before Moss beat the final horn with his sixth 3-pointer of the game.

Offense wasn’t the issue. Iowa shot 54.2 percent from the field, normally a statistic to crow about on the road in the Big Ten. But Minnesota made 65.6 percent of its first-half shots and finished at a crowing-worthy 57.1 percent.

“I just didn’t think we were as locked in as we wanted to be,” said Iowa’s Luka Garza, who matched his career-high with 25 points. But like his teammates, he got beat to the basket by the Gophers on multiple occasions.

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“We were just letting open shooters get open shots,” Garza said. “They were driving the baseline. I myself did a poor job of cutting that off. Yeah, overall just poor execution.

“I’m not too proud of myself tonight.”

Minnesota senior forward Jordan Murphy could feel good about himself. He had 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Teammate Amir Coffey had 23 points and five assists. Moss had 23 points for Iowa, Cook 18.

Iowa’s next game is Friday night at home against sixth-ranked Michigan.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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